Saturday, January 19, 2008
Burgundy Ties It All Together...
This front yard that I designed a few years ago is really starting to come together. It's my favorite garden of my career, partly because of the challenge of a very small lot mixed with clients with adventurous taste and a lust for many plants. The key to taming a lot of variety is to have a harmonizing theme, in this case, burgundy foliage and "trim."
If you've read this blog before, you know that I'm all about balancing harmony and contrast. So here's the recipe.
Obviously, the dominant player in this section of the front yard is the Canadian Redbud (like Canada doesn't already rock!) with it's heart-shaped leaves, stunning tiny deep pink flowers before the leaves pop, and an "architecture" that creates horizontal planes of foliage. The big contrast is the yellow flowering Poker Plant (Kniphofia 'Malibu') with its strong upright form, grassy leaves and brilliant flowers. You have to admit that it's pretty much the antithesis of the Redbud.
But growing right under the Redbud is Cape Reed (Chondropetalum tectorum) which at a quick glance appears to be a stiff, tall grass. It's actually in the Restio family (South Africa), which commonly share a brownish sheath that drops off in summer to reveal a brown band at regular intervals along each leaf. The brown band, though subtle, closely resembles the burgundy foliage of the tree, so a harmonizing element is brought in, even though the forms of the two plants vary wildly.
Now for something to pick up the foliage color of the Redbud, but in a completely different form.
Behold the plum-colored Persicaria 'Red Dragon', a vigorous perennial related to Knotweed (Polygonum). It gets about 3' high, sprawls to about 5' wide, but takes well to being whacked back heavily at least once (and sometimes twice) a year. It's controllable, but give it space, because it's one of the most graceful plants when you let it do its thing. Persicaria even has a dainty white flower for most of the growing season.
This last shot shows the back side of the same bed, shot through the foliage of my favorite grass - Miscanthus 'Morning Light'.
The blue flower / silver foliage perennial is Germander Sage (Salvia chamaedryoides), with one of the two Redbuds in the background. Again, the silver provides a stark contrast, but it's all balanced out by the dominant burgundy foliage of the key players.
Perhaps you can't grow these exact plant combinations in your area, but use this as a template for combining a few of your local plants and you'll have a fun composition.